Thoreau’s Influence

Cabin Life – 2 – Left unguarded the mind easily yields to brute emotions and today anger visits.  Suddenly another voice joins the conversation.  The great and simple Henry David Thoreau, recalling his own cabin days says, “Give me that poverty that knows true wealth,” and he wins the day!

 Opening the front door this morning Jack Frost greeted me and pinched my nose and ears.  I quickly closed the door and decided it was too cold for a walk and in no mood to play or fight with Mr. Frost today.  Instead, I boiled some eggs for a sandwich and warmed a pot of water for my tea.

My table was close to the pot belly oil stove which had a flat metal top like a griddle which measured about 2 ½ ft. long and 1 ½ ft. wide.  As long as the oil stove was stoking that flat top was hot, which was “always” during the winter, and it helped to keep the cabin warm.  It was an excellent place for my hot water kettle to sit while I typed and drank tea.  Sometimes in the morning while dressing, I would squish my underwear and undershirts on that flat top and it was a real treat to slip on hot clothes.  They kept me warm for a long time.

All morning I’ve been brooding about how I came to live in a cabin.  Wisdom escapes me and I angrily wish vengeance on those who betrayed me.  My Spirit Self abruptly engages me in sporadic conversation.

That pride of yours needs squelching, she said.

Is defending my dignity a proud thing to do?  I responded.

Well, no, it is just the way you do it, I guess.

Anger rarely overcomes me because I don’t like the person I become when possessed by it.  So it is very important that I avoid anger.   However, I am a passionate person.  I play passionately, love passionately, and fight passionately.  This means I strive for perfection—in academics, office tasks, teaching, and sports, and my shortcomings disappoint me easily.  But this also means that if you are my friend, we are friends for life, and yes, you can really count on me.

Competing oppositions have equal strength here.  The depth that I can love is also the depth that I can experience anger.  So I guard my anger closely and work to convert the negative emotion to positive energy.  It is such drive and energy that propel me to take advantage of opportunities that come my way and to keep reaching for the higher plane of life.  It urges me to keep searching, learning, trying new things, meeting new challenges and embracing new adventures—good or bad.  At times that fierce energy generated the concentration I needed to hit that forehand down the line for a winner, or to sprint that extra twenty yards, pushing on towards the goal, outrunning the fullback and finding the extra energy—sometimes in anger—to place the soccer ball in just the right angle and distance away from the goalie, but within a few inches from the post…for a goal.

So perhaps it is not anger, really, but a passion for validity and justice.  Sitting here in my cabin a passion to “suck all the marrow out of life,” as Henry David Thoreau did at Walden Pond, overcomes me.  My instinct tells me I won’t find that challenge living the “high” life, but rather living with simplicity.  I find myself totally in sync with Thoreau’s cry to “Simplify, simplify!”  (Ah, Thoreau has saved me from my anger!)

Pure, wholesome beauty resides in simplicity.  Today beauty resides in absolute silence.  I suppose silence has different meanings for people.  To a soldier at the war front it could mean either peace or rest before the battle.  For a mother a long silence is reason enough to check on the kids.  And a long silence between lovers could mean the relationship is under strain, or that the relationship is so comfortable that constant talk is not required.  For me, silence in my cabin on this hillside brings rest to my spirit, renewed strength and the reminder that simple is beautiful.

Ah, simplicity abounds when I undress and climb into my sleeping bag, pulling the zipper way up to my chin to keep warm.  When I awake in the morning I gloat in the simple task of pouring water into the pot to heat, then stepping into my little bucket to soap down and rinse clean.  It sounds absurd, but there many simple joys of life waiting to suddenly and joyfully expose themselves to you.

Two bunches of tulips I bought at Carr’s in Palmer brighten my cabin.  One bunch is deep red and the other is red and yellow.  I love flowers, and especially love to receive flowers for no special reasons, but “just because.”  When Jesus referred to the lily of the fields He noted that they didn’t toil or spin all day yet even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed as the lilies growing freely in the fields.  I leave my typewriter to warm my tea and inspect the tulips closer, their rich colors, firm but delicate texture, strong stems sucking in their life line from the water-filled vase.

 The tulips remind me that the richness of life lies in the natural simplicity of all existence.  The Creator is a perfectionist and everything was created good and perfect.  Even the decaying process returns all life to dust to support new growth.   Nothing wasted.  All exists for His glory.

Perched in a clear vase on a white tablecloth the tulips are majestic.  The color white, as a backdrop projects clearer the richness of the objects.  Perhaps this also best explains simplicity.  Oftentimes we are too attracted to the objects that we are unaware of the background, or the things that really count as simple truths of life.  A single tulip simply arrayed reveals more truth and beauty than a complicated queen on a complex throne adorned with a precious jeweled crown.

            “Give me that poverty that knows true wealth.”   Henry David Thoreau

 © Jennifer Lee and, October 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Jennifer Lee and is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lee and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Esther: The Risk Taker

History provides a vast array of women mentors.  One of my favorite is Esther of the Bible who, from a minority status uses wisdom and faith to save herself and her people.

Societies extol living and playing safely.  Responsible citizens obey the rules of society and live within their means.  Taking risks elicit wary raised eye brows, and we frown upon deviants and rebels stepping out of the norm.

 To develop her uniqueness however, a woman must step out of the mainstream and respond to her life’s call and purpose.  Historically, God has called ordinary people out of life’s comfort zone and provided significant opportunities for spiritual growth and personal achievement.  This is risky for the chosen because when a person steps out of sync with societal norms the consequences are often damaging.  The risk is even greater if the person’s race, occupation or gender already represents a low status in society.

 Interestingly, sociologists describe a minority woman’s position as “double jeopardy” because there are two strikes against her; she is a woman and a minority.  Some women are in “triple jeopardy,” being a woman, minority, and old.  Although these negative challenges minorities face, particularly women, are real, it doesn’t mean that living a purposeful life is unattainable.  (That these social statuses exist is for another blog!)  Esther of the Bible is our mentor in such a situation.

 Initially her older cousin, Mordecai, used Esther as a pawn.   When Persian King Xerxes sought a queen beautiful Persian maidens posed before him.  Mordecai arranged for Esther, his young Jewish cousin, to join them, concealing her Jewish identity.  The king chose Esther because of her exquisite beauty.

 The Bible says that King Xerxes loved Esther.  Her submissiveness and obedience found much favor with him.  His previous queen, Vashti, publicly disobeyed him when he wanted to show off her beauty to all the princes but she refused to comply with his wishes and failed to appear.  The wise men advised the king to dispose of Vashti at once because her outright disobedience would influence the rest of the women in the kingdom and they, too, would disobey their husbands, and the king complied. 

 Women’s role during Esther’s time was to please and entertain men, and to carry out the household chores.  Esther, as a Jewish woman, would have had lesser acknowledgement and status in this Persian society.  But her true identity was kept a secret.

 Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, had once saved the king’s life, and in gratitude the king appointed him an advisor in his court.  His appointment angered the king’s general, Haman, who sought ways to get rid of Mordecai and the rest of the Jews.  This is the cast of men Esther faced in her challenge to save herself and her people.  These were men seeking status, power and wealth.

 Esther finds herself in the crossfire between Haman and Mordecai.  The general, wishing to destroy all the Jews,  convinced the king to pass a law forcing the Jews to kneel down and worship the king or be killed.  Knowing the Jews would never comply, it would give Haman the excuse he needed to destroy the Jews in the Persian kingdom.

 Mordecai, however, played his pawn turned queen, Esther, to retaliate in the feud asking her to tell her husband, the king, of Haman’s wicked plot.  Mordecai prophesied to Esther, “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14-14, NIV) 

Esther, hedged between two threatening choices, seriously considers the challenges of one, presenting herself to the king which the law prohibited without him first requesting her presence; and two, risking revealing her Jewish identity which would surely mark her betrayal and put her life and her people’s lives in danger.  Or, she could do nothing and remain queen.

 But Esther, raised by Mordecai when she lost her parents and had a solid understanding of her heritage, became a risk taker by faith.  Fully aware of the devastating consequences that awaited her if she confronted the king unrequested to make a plea for herself and her people, she carefully weighed and analyzed the costs and benefits of the risks she was about to undertake.

Calculating her every move, Esther did not storm into the king’s throne room, announce her heritage and demand freedom for her people.  That would have been suicidal.  She did not outright disobey the king as her predecessor, Vashti had done.  She took the time to carefully conceive a plan, developed it step-by-step, and patiently worked it.

 Esther planned not one or two, but three special feasts to honor the king, and requested General Haman’s presence at each feast.  She further honored her king by being submissive and obedient, using these qualities as her offensive moves to gain the king’s favor.  Her submissiveness and kind gestures were her strongest resources for a successful strategy. 

 The king found favor with his queen and on a sleepless night as he read through chronicles of his reign she reminded him of Mordecai’s good deed in saving his life.  It was the timely intimate moment Esther had prayed for and she carefully informed the king that her life and the lives of her people were in jeopardy.  The king asked, “Who wants to destroy your people?”  She replied, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.”

 Haman was eventually hung on the gallows built for Mordecai’s execution.   Esther humbly revealed her heritage and still remained in the king’s favor.  She eliminated her adversary and saved the Jewish nation.

 Esther’s success resulted because she firmly maintained her values and was well acquainted with her God and her Jewish heritage.  She demonstrated that a disciplined person committed to her values could afford to take risks.   She remained subservient to her king and husband and wisely used the limited tools within her possession.  It required wisdom, patience, and tenacity to carefully consider the risks, develop the plan and carry out the strategy.

 Esther is a heroic mentor for today’s women  risk takers.  She crossed cultural boundaries, lived definitely outside of mainstream, and remained true to her faith and values.  She knew her risks, the consequences, the timeframe necessary for a successful venture, and by faith she believed that her decision was right for herself, her people, and her king, and she was in tune with her role at a critical, historical moment aligned with the stars and God’s plan.

 The Lesson – A risk taker does not mean living a carefree and reckless life.  Rather it means being willing to step out of the ordinary to grow and discover the unique woman you already are, combining the characteristics of humility, self-sacrifice, servitude, and obedience with strength, courage, initiative and decisiveness.  These are attributes of strong, risk taking women and men who are unafraid to face the daily challenges, big and small, and by faith live their purposeful lives.

  Risk it wisely!

 © Jennifer Lee and, October 2009.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Jennifer Lee and is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lee and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

A Milepost

First 100 Hits! 

It is Saturday, October 24, 2009 around 11:15 AM West Coast time. has 100 hits.  Congratulations!

 Thank you,!  You have made it easier for the world to read an aspirant writer’s work. 

 Thank you to my readers and “clickers on the go” for dropping in just out of curiosity and then returning throughout the week for quick visits.  Many of you are acquaintances and friends who have responded very favorably through direct e-mail.  It would be great if you would click “leave a comment” at the bottom of the page and enter your thoughts, suggestions, and feedback.

 As I am finding my niche and designing the page, my posts are articles written and filed away for many years, which I’ve edited for relevancy.  My target audience is the female population because my writings describe  transitions of a woman’s life.  There are flashbacks of growing up on a farm in Hawaii, relationship with my children, women working with women, public policy effecting women and children, and especially my spiritual journey, all being edited for future posting. However, many articles and posts reflect global thoughts and ideas, and it would thrill me to know that men also enjoy reading my blog.

 The few who have read my writings in the past have continually encouraged me to publish–especially my older sister Liz, who was the 100 hit!  Perhaps someday there will be an interested publisher.  For now, however, the first 100 who have hit my blog are my virtual friends and audience. 

 Thank you!

 © Jennifer Lee and, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Jennifer Lee and is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lee and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Sitting Under The Tree

Today I begin a new Blog Category:  Sitting Under the Tree.  There are times when we just want to sit and chat with friends having unedited conversations through stream of consciousness.  So when you see “Sitting Under the Tree” before a blog post, just imagine you, a few friends and myself sitting on a green grassy hill under a large tree daydreaming and watching white clouds float by, not trying to solve any problem, just sharing ideas safely and freely.

 Do you remember when the rage was to watch the new TV news channels?  What a novel idea, but who would want to listen to the news all day?  Well, many of us do, and news channels are now big business.  And may I add, entertaining?  But what has happened to the news? 

Have you read the newspaper lately?  Or, have you listened to the “Floor talk” in Congress on C-SPAN?  Or, would you admit to listening to radio and tv talk shows?

I’ve done all the above, and you know what, my friend?

I’m so sick and tired of all the wars, the fighting, useless killing, ugly power struggles and childish name calling between political parties, brutal border control between neighborhoods and nations, hate crimes between cultural and religious sects, competition for wealth on wall and main streets, our innocent children being kidnapped off the streets, the poor getting poorer and the rich getting richer.  And, I’m so weary of being cautious to not step on a chronic complainer’s toes when all I want to do is live my life without hurting anyone else.  But it seems impossible to do.

 I have thought about this night and day, and have tried different formulas of living to do my part in changing the dreadful course we’re traveling.  You know, by reading the self-help books that inundate the marketplace, stacked in book stores and libraries right next to books on how to influence people.  I’ve also read a great deal about the different religions and have attended a variety of religious services, trying to see what was so bad that we couldn’t get along.  All have both good and not so good elements.  So what?

So what’s the big deal and why do we have so much hate, mistrust and suspicion among us?  I’m beginning to think that we’re all hooked up to some big universal computer—not the one that runs the super internet highway—I mean the one that really controls our universe.  Yeah, that one!  I imagine we are born with our hearts and minds programmed to  influence our environment positively, and we’re destined to live much like John Donne’s idea that “No man is an island.” 

However, it’s difficult for us to live together on our planet island because we just don’t like each other, and like spoiled siblings we don’t want anyone crossing our lines, touching our stuff, and God help us if we need to share a berry patch or a water hole with someone who looks different from us.

 Supposing the human race was just Project X on someone’s map.  And guess what?  We were all hand-picked because of our physical and spiritual makeup to face the challenge of perpetuating our species.  Oh, this isn’t a punishment, nor is it an experiment.  No!  Say, we’re in Life 101:  Human Being.

 To make it more complicated suppose that the human race is a “team” or “family” project.  This means that no one goes through the gate or “graduates” until everyone learns the lessons like how to get along, how to put others before us, be less violent and more generous.  These are the characteristics, “dots to connect,” the “key” or correct stimuli, impulses, or frequency that will grant the human race perpetual existence in whatever form and place you want to imagine.

 Oh, our current condition would not mean we are forever doomed, although at first we might think so.  But we have been given clues throughout our sojourn on earth and maps to lead us out of the darkness into the light, so-to-speak.  We’ve had prophets and our Savior, so it isn’t impossible, really.  It’s only how badly we want it.

 The trouble is we humans don’t learn our lessons well.  We don’t learn them at all.  We don’t want to learn them!  Period!  We resist even to the point of surrendering to the idea that perpetual existence is both unachievable and unimaginable.  What we don’t or won’t learn today, we live to learn another day and history will continue to repeat itself until we all learn our lessons and we treat one another with dignity and respect.  Simply but wisely put, we must be our brother’s keeper.

 For today, however, it doesn’t really matter if that universal computer has our number and frequency.  It doesn’t really matter if we someday all implode into the black hole when the sun turns off.  Those are the pillars of  entertainment news.  But it does matter to me that we work together to begin to change our human course by working on our own attitudes and resolving to extend a hand of friendship and servitude to all.

And when I go home after work and flip the TV on to hear the news, please, may I just listen to the news?  Or if I pick up a newspaper or news magazine, please may I read the news?  There already are more than enough entertainment channels and magazines.

What is that I hear from the other side of the tree? 

“Thank heavens for Jim Lehrer!”

 © Jennifer Lee and, October 2009.Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Jennifer Lee and is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lee and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


A lost art, awaiting rediscovery!

Elegance is an attitude of style, finesse, even civility.  One is not born with elegance no matter how elegant the birth environment.  The next chapter of my life will consist of improving my skills in elegantry. 

Why?  Elegance demands grace under fire, etiquette to entertain royalty, humility to dine with the lowly, and politesse to speak calmly to one’s adversary, expressing thoughts and ideas clearly, convincingly, while preserving dignata.  Elegance embraces and implements decorum and harnesses vulgarity and crass.  It requires beauty of the soul, understanding of human relations, and humbleness of heart. 

One arrayed in beautiful, expensive garb acting out decorum but falls short of humility and understanding of human relationships is a villanous imposter whose self-centeredness is telegraphed a mile away as she approaches.  Another dressed modestly and of limited means but is pure of heart performing decorum most elegantly can inspire and influence even the angels in heaven.

Elegance forgives wrong and gracefully upholds truth, for without it, elegance tarnishes and fades away.  Elegance belongs to the matured and cultured, to the learned—street and book—to the lifetime student seeking to give and receive the very best in life.  Youth frolic in showy display of pageantry sparkled with wine and stars.  Wine and stars bow down to the soul polished elegance of the aged, wise for embracing life’s lessons made with bold sacrifice, and always revealing truth.

I’ll know I’ve arrived when I can look at another non-judgementally with a heart to serve, converse in respectful tones seeking understanding, and walk patiently, gracefully with firm shoulders load-free of guilt and resentment.  Cleanliness of body and mind would be reflected in my appearance—well groomed and well spoken without a spiteful tongue.  Above all the crown of elegance would display a committed discipline to guard one’s mind and body of all negativity.  Hence, a wholesome and healthy woman emerges.

Elegance bearing the torch of all that is good and beautiful in life would be a lasting tribute to a life lived imperfectly, but with a well intentioned heart seeking truth and understanding, and life lessons humbly learned.

 © Jennifer Lee and, October 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from Jennifer Lee and is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jennifer Lee and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.